If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this intriguing watermark in my first edition of Nehemiah Grew's The Anatomy of Vegetables Begunthe first work of scientific botany. Watermarks are often obscured under text, but in this case I was lucky, as it happened to coincide with the blank 19th century paper watermarks of a folding plate.
Most of the watermarks I'd seen had been smaller, simpler and more condensed, so I was immediately 19th century paper watermarks by this sprawling, seemingly abstract symbol. With a background in book history as well as science, I was also interested in this as evidence of the book's production history, and decided to investigate further. First, some background on watermarks.
Watermarks & the History of Paper
During the period when paper was made by hand in Europe, from the late Middle Ages through the early 19th century, it was produced by shredding linen rags and other fibers and then mashing them up in water, making a sort of thick soup of fiber. A wire mesh mould cdntury lowered into this 19th century paper watermarks and lifted out several times.
As the water drained through the mesh it deposited thin layers of fibers on the mould. You can see evidence of the wire mesh in the image above: centurh vertical lines the ones that look like the watermark, not 19th century paper watermarks folds in the paper are called chain lines, and the more frequent horizontal lines are called laid lines.
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They appear when light is shining from behind because the paper is thinner an example of comparison and contrast essay the places where a wire was. The watermark is simply created by attaching a decorative design made of thicker wire to this grid. A wide variety of watermarks were used to identify paper manufacturers, or sometimes the size or the quality of the paper, and many of them have been catalogued by bibliographers and book historians.
They're useful for those who want to date papers and to understand how books were produced in the past, and can also be used to detect forgeries. Sure enough, the Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive at the University of Delaware has an entire section devoted to foolscap watermarkswhich depict the head of a jester in an elaborate cap with bells.
This was a very popular watermark, and variations of it 19th century paper watermarks used throughout Europe for centuries, with the first appearances dated to the middle of the s Hunter, Papermaking, p. The foolscap symbol eventually became associated with a specific size of paper, what until recently was called "foolscap". To get a 19th century paper watermarks idea of what the foolscap watermark mark looks like in 19th century paper watermarks, here are examples from the Gravell website - both are from books at the Folger Shakespeare Library and they are dated to andvery close to the date our book was published.
With Specimen Samples
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